Those who read my last post, “Inserting DWG’s into MS Word or PowerPoint” may recall the mention I made about PDF Creator. Since it seems many of you were interested in that tool, I thought it may be appropriate to share some other tools that I have used and/or know about. If you’re a big web surfer you have likely read a number of Top 100 Free Utility lists. It’s not my intention to litter this post with so much excess baggage. Instead I have tried to keep this list as concise, and as relevant to CAD users as possible. Even to that end, I know there are probably many more free tools than included on my list which a CAD user may find helpful. If you would like to share such utilities, please do so by leaving a comment on this post.
- PDF Creator – I have found this tool to be one of the most versatile free PDF creators. A couple things which stand out to me is the ability not only to create PDF’s but also PNG, JPG, TIFF, BMP, PCX, PS, and EPS. Better still is the way you can plot to a logical sheet size like Arch D as opposed to some pixel resolution. Another interesting feature is the way you can combine multiple PDF’s into a single PDF.
- CutePDF Writer – If all you need to do is create PDF’s than this tool is second to none. It’s both quick, lightweight, and FREE for both personal and commercial use.
Online Meetings and Web Conferencing
- Yugma – This is an awesome alternative to services such as GoToMeeting or MS Live Meeting. If all you need is a basic online conference room this tool is perfect. For the audio portion they have recently teamed up with skype, and they also provide a free conference line (non 1-800 number though). More advanced features are available through their reasonably priced paid plans starting at $9.95/month.
- Karen’s Directory Printer – This little tool allows you to scan a directory and report its contents to a CSV file (which can be brought into Excel). It can be set up to scan and report file info, folder info, or both file and folder information. Adding to its flexibility you can set it up to only report files with a DWG extension. Perfect for the CAD Manager looking for a way to perform file management audits.
- xplorer² – This is a great dual-pane alternative to Windows Explorer. Unlike the Commander interfaces this tool provides each a file tree, and 2 browsing panes. Those panes can be extended through the use of tabs, and even by saving shortcuts to frequently visited locations. There is both a free and paid version available. The free version is limited to private and academic use. Even still the full version isn’t incredibly expensive at $29.95.
- Free Commander – Especially since discovering xplorer², I haven’t been much of a Commander fan. Recognizing there are numerous folks out there who live by the Commander interface, I thought it to be closed minded not to offer such a solution. Admittedly I have never used this tool, but this does seem to be among the best free Commander solutions out there. It’s also worth mentioning this tool is free for both personal and commercial use.
- GIMP – While I personally prefer Photoshop, this one doesn’t cost $650+. It’s interface is not necessarily in-sync with Photoshop, but most of the features are still there.
- GIMP-Shop – Essentially the same thing as above except the GUI has been modified to mimic Photoshop.
- Edit Pad – If you work with a lot of TXT documents you know how clunky and slow Notepad is. Edit Pad is much quicker than Notepad. For instance a “Find & Replace” on a large TXT document can take a while in Notepad. Edit Pad breezes through it in a fraction of the time. As an added bonus, if you have a U3 USB Flash Drive, there is a portable version of this as well. Do note this solution is only free for non-commercial use. The professional version costs between $17.99 and $49.95.
- FileZilla – While Windows Explorer can be used as a FTP client, it has the tendency of timing out among other difficulties. The FileZilla interface is a lot more robust and thus complex than Windows Explorer, but it does a wonderful job for every FTP need I have ever come across.
- FastStone Capture – This is another category that if given the choice I would choose Snag-it, but if you are on a limited budget this utility seems to do most of what Snag-it can. Being a Snag-it user I am not too familiar with this product.
- CamStudio – Allows you to record a video of your screen. Great for recording training sessions for later use. This is another recent discovery of mine, as I already have Camtasia. Once again comparing price vs. function CamStudio seems to do just about everything Camtasia can.